Students Gain Hands-On Training with Newly Launched International Arbitration LL.M. Practicum


Harout Samra, Angela Crawford, Kamal Sleiman, Brian Vaca, Luis Sotelo, and Michael Austin

In the Spring 2016 semester, the White & Case International Arbitration LL.M. program launched a new and exciting opportunity for its students – the International Arbitration Practicum. The practicum, similar to an externship, allows students to obtain practical experience in the field of international arbitration with Miami-based law firms for academic credit while pursuing the LL.M. degree.

Four students took advantage of this new opportunity during the Spring 2016 semester.

Davide Schiavetti, originally from Italy and winner of the 2015/16 full-tuition Young ICCA Scholarship, worked at Astigarraga Davis, a Miami-based, top-tier international arbitration boutique law firm featuring several Miami Law alumni.

“It is quite rare to have the privilege to work on international arbitration cases,” said Schiavetti, LL.M. '16. “Thanks to my practicum at Astigarraga Davis, I had the chance to gain first-hand experience on my first investment arbitration case, which confirmed to me that international arbitration is the field of practice I want to specialize in.”  

Later this fall, Schiavetti will start working in Washington, D.C. with the International Arbitration practice group at White & Case LLP - one of the world’s leading international arbitration firms. He will work with Miami Law adjunct professors and White & Case partners Carolyn Lamm, a Miami Law alumna, and Jonathan C. Hamilton, as well as other Miami Law alumni.  

Brian Vaca, a student in the J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree Program in International Arbitration worked at DLA Piper, a Global Arbitration Review (GAR) Top 30 international arbitration firm with offices in Miami.

Alejandro Alvarez with Miami Law adjunct professor John Rooney

“The practicum at DLA Piper was an opportunity to put into practice what I had learned throughout my studies in the White & Case International Arbitration LL.M. at Miami Law,” said Vaca. “Over the course of the semester I had the chance to write federal court motions regarding the applicability of arbitration clauses, work on legal memos in Spanish for foreign clients, and co-author an article on corruption as a defense in investment arbitration to be published in the McGill Journal of Dispute Resolution. I could not have asked for a better team to work with.”  

Harout Samra, an associate in DLA Piper’s International Dispute Resolution and Arbitration practice, who also is a Miami Law alumnus, was supervising Vaca and shared his opinion about the practicum. “The International Arbitration LL.M. Practicum Program gives students a unique opportunity to develop strong relationships with international practitioners in our community and get their hands 'dirty' with real cases.  It was a pleasure to work with Brian over the last semester. He contributed significantly to some important international arbitration matters and initiatives. Brian was very knowledgeable and passionate about many of the complex international arbitration issues we face. The International Arbitration LL.M. Program helps attract great students like Brian and shapes them to be top practitioners in the future.”

Maria Vargas, who has a law degree from the Dominican Republic and who also is pursuing the J.D./LL.M. Joint Degree in International Arbitration, worked at GST LLP, a Miami-based, GAR Top 100-ranked boutique international arbitration law firm founded by Miami Law alumni Mauricio Gomm and Quinn Smith. “The months of working at the firm were extremely rewarding,” said Vargas. “This experience introduced me to a different way of practicing law and influenced my desire to further my education in the United States. Here, I was reminded of how much lawyers can influence society as a whole while widening my understanding of the U.S. legal system. Furthermore, the team at GST was very supportive and took the time to explain every task I needed to perform. I would recommend this kind of program to anyone. It is an invaluable experience to see how the theory works in practice.”  

Quinn Smith, a founding partner at GST and coach of Miami Law’s student team in the Spanish-language Competencia Internacional de Arbitraje moot court, stated that the practicum was an excellent experience for the firm and added, “The process was easy, and the University of Miami worked with us to find the right match for our practice area. Maria was diligent and meaningfully added to our work. We look forward to participating in the future.”
Lastly, Alejandro Alvarez who holds a law degree from Venezuela, where he also taught international private law as an assistant professor, worked with John Rooney, Jr., P.A. “During the International Arbitration Practicum, I gained knowledge and practical experience on the conduct of international arbitration and related litigation in the United States.  It was particularly valuable to me to gain real-life exposure to the practice of international arbitration, and my experience during the practicum reaffirmed my decision to work in this field,” said Alvarez.

John Rooney, who works as counsel and independent arbitrator in international commercial and investment matters and who also teaches as an adjunct professor at Miami Law, stated that the practicum exceeded his high expectations. He said that he and Alejandro were able to collaborate on many projects relating to international arbitration, and “Alejandro’s comments were insightful and evidenced his strong foundation in the area.”  

John Rooney, who also coaches Miami Law’s student team in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, is now looking forward to continued participation in the practicum program.  Alvarez, who graduated from the International Arbitration LL.M. in May, will start an in-house counsel position with Cisneros Group, a Venezuelan conglomerate of media entertainment, digital media, property investment, tourism development and consumer product companies, later this fall.

The White & Case International Arbitration LL.M. Program, under the leadership of Jan Paulsson, provides a unique individualized educational opportunity for a small group of top quality students from a range of countries, wishing to acquire an in-depth grounding in the field of international arbitration as a platform for a successful career. The program - the only one of its kind in the United States - is open to U.S. and foreign-trained law graduates, and is ideal for newcomers to the field or experienced practitioners looking to enrich their skills and knowledge.